How to look after your customers in a way that will delight them - and sustain your sales revenue in equal measure.
Loyal customers often repeat their purchases - and are more likely to recommend you to others. So, keeping existing customers happy and loyal makes sound business sense.
So how do we go about looking after our customers in a way that will delight them - and sustain your sales revenue in equal measure?
My suggestions cover practical ideas you can easily implement and, as with any relationship, it’s always a good idea to get off to the right start…
1) Deliver on your sales promises
Do you focus on the next sale to the extent that your existing customers are quickly forgotten? I’ve seen businesses that are ‘all about the sales’ but this kind of approach often means that delivery and subsequent customer service end up down the priority list.
Here’s the problem. You might think they are new customers once they are on your client list - but do they feel the same way about you?
If you fail to deliver the promises made in the sales process, don’t return calls and expect new customers to work it out for themselves - customer expectations will quickly feel short changed. It’s hardly the start to a long and profitable relationship.
What’s more, your people will get fed up with the complaints and you could have a retention issue. So, talking about your people...
2) Focus on employee engagement
Your employees are the face and voice of your business. How your customers feel about your business is often influenced by their interaction with your people. Are they engaged in your business? Do they feel a sense of pride and ownership?
As the business owner, much of this is down to you. If you build a culture they’ll be proud to work in, are consistent in your decisions and actions and fair to your employees - you’ll build their loyalty to you and the business. And best of all, your customers will love it.
As Sir Richard Branson says… “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”
3) Make it personal
And now for something so simple it’s almost crazy to need to say it.
Making a customer feel like you recognise them and are taking the time to pay them special attention really helps to build a relationship and cement loyalty. There’s nothing more likely to show your customer you don’t care or feel like ‘just a number’ if you get this wrong.
These days many of us use CRMs and email marketing systems - so, if that’s what you use to keep in touch, make sure you have their name right, especially their first name. It seems almost too obvious to mention, but I can recall the times when I’ve been ‘Dear customer’ or ‘Dear xxx’. Arghh!
And don’t limit yourself to email for keeping in touch. Small businesses in particular have the advantage that they can get to know their customers far better than much larger businesses.
The personal touch that comes with being small can be used to great effect to build loyalty. So, as an alternative to an email, how effective would a nicely printed card and personal note be?
4) Great content deepens relationships
If you maintain regular and clear communication with your customers, they are more likely to remember you and buy from you in the future. The content you produce can play a big part in this.
What keeps customers coming back to your website or reading your newsletters is often the value of your content. You can offer valuable information and useful tips that both build loyalty with existing customers as well as helping to attract new ones.
But your own content is only part of the story. Many of your customers work hard to produce good content too and you can make a very positive impression with them by retweeting and sharing their posts on social media. It shows you are taking the trouble to notice them, you respect their efforts and it builds loyalty.
5) The power of listening
The customer is always right. Well, even if they aren’t they like to feel like they are!
The ability to listen and build empathy is a hugely important skill - not just in keeping the customer happy and resolving the issue in question. It shows the customer that you recognise them as an individual.
Listening to the customer also creates the opportunity to sell intelligently, based on their needs. If the customer’s needs are being met, they’ll be more receptive to future sales.
6) Create opportunities for feedback
Every customer likes to feel that their opinion matters. So, how do you create opportunities for them to give feedback? While there is value in an annual customer service survey, asking them ‘little and often’ is a more way to show you care.
For example, customer feedback is an easy process that takes very little time for the customer to complete but shows that you welcome feedback and reminds them that they aren’t being taken for granted. Services such as Survey Gizmo or Survey Monkey will help you gain customer feedback, often at no cost.
And finally, the best tactic of them all…
You’ve done the hard work - you have built your customer base. If you are doing (or plan to do) many of the above suggestions, you will be well on your way to keeping your customers loyal. But there’s one more thing you can keep doing - and it can be the most effective of them all…
7) Keep making it easy for them to be a customer
We are all inclined to do the things that are easier - and that applies to our customers too. So how can you make it easier for them to buy from you?
Perhaps offer them a discount from their next purchase, or, through segmenting them, maybe you can offer them repeat offers closer to their needs. It might just be a case of remaining easy to get in touch with.
Personally I can’t stand not being able to find a contact phone number on a website - but many companies seem to be making it harder and harder to get in touch. Don’t create that divide. Consider a flexible to use outsourced customer service service and/or virtual PA who can greatly enhance your customer’s experience.
It’s down to you
Ultimately, you have a relationship with your customers and whether it’s a good one - or a bad one is down to you. If it’s a good one there’s no reason for them not to feel loyal to you - but remember, they can always choose to leave any time they want.
Ben Wheeler is a freelance marketing consultant and content writer working with growing businesses - and an Accredited Consultant with Watertight Marketing. He also helps clients produce articles for LinkedIn.